John Eager Howard Elementary hosts a variety of volunteers that support the school’s standards for excellence. From lending a hand in the classroom to leading a student Lunch Club, volunteers help the faculty, staff, and students go the extra mile on a daily basis.
Jennifer and Moriah spent an afternoon together every week during the 2012-2013 school year, talking about friends, family, and even poetry while eating lunch.
Jennifer began volunteering at John Eager Howard through Beth Am Synagogue more than 10 years ago. She’s been a tutor, classroom aide, and chess club leader, but now she’s become a mentor and friend. “I’ve become really attached to Moriah. She’s met both of my daughters and I’ve seen her grow tremendously over just this year,” Jennifer told me.
She didn’t just mean that Moriah grew taller: Moriah’s teacher Ms. Currin told me how Jennifer’s weekly volunteering has resulted in real, measurable differences. So what happened? When I asked Moriah what she and Jennifer did every week, she said, “We read and do math. We talk about whatever we want. We have fun like when we do math, which isn’t usually fun. We work in the library and sometimes I’ll pick a book off the shelf to read with her. I like to read poetry. I pay attention to her because she makes things easier by being more fun. She’s really good at making things fun.”
Ms. Plain, another one of Moriah’s teachers, believes that Jennifer helped her to grow beyond the scope of academics: “This year, I have had the privilege of watching Moriah mature into a nice, confident, and motivated young lady. While most children spent their lunches participating in typical lunchroom activities, Moriah spent many of her lunches working with her mentor, Ms. Berk. Moriah and Ms. Berk would read together, complete math assignments, and talk about a variety of topics. Moriah is a more confident young lady and student than she was last year: she’s more open and confident around her peers and with tackling her schoolwork. I truly hope that more students will have the opportunity to work one-on-one with a mentor.”
Volunteering here is about much more than giving back: everyone helping at the school becomes part of the John Eager Howard Family. I can personally attest to the sense of community involved with spending time with the faculty, staff, and students because even though I—a compete stranger—showed up almost halfway through the school year, everyone welcomed me wholeheartedly. My service at John Eager Howard Elementary as an AmeriCorps VISTA has been invaluable and I encourage everyone to join our family.
When I asked Moriah about the future, she said, “I’d really like to do this again next year as a fifth grader.” Jennifer agrees.
Post by Mike Andrews -- Repair The World AmeriCorps VISTA Member